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What do you do if your roof is leaking?
Who do you call if your water pump breaks down?
Where do you find a reliable repairman?
When do your air conditioners need to be serviced?
How do you pay utility bills?
Why is the swimming pool turning green?
Dealing with household management and maintenance problems often prove to be some of the most frustrating experiences that expats have living in Indonesia. Due to poor workmanship and/or the poor quality materials used in the construction of numerous houses and the rigors of the tropical climate, home repairs and maintenance are constantly needed. Common problems include leaks, problems with electrical wiring, plumbing and breakdown of electrical appliances, insufficient voltage to run numerous electrical appliances, and clogged drains.
There are several options available to expats in order to get the help that you need. These range from "do-it-yourself" or "get your domestic staff to do it", through hiring a tukang (a low-skilled or semi-skilled laborer), calling your company's maintenance personnel, to executive housing maintenance services. Large companies sometimes have a maintenance section which is tasked to handle housing-related problems for their expatriate staff, but most expatriates are not so fortunate and have to deal with repair and maintenance problems themselves.
Housing RepairsFor general house maintenance or repairs of household appliances there are numerous contractors or companies offering their services. Consult the Jakarta Shopper's Guide, the Yellow Pages or classified advertisements in the newspaper to find them. It is always a good idea to get a repairman (tukang) who has been recommended by a friend, whenever possible. You can also ask your driver or maid to help find someone or to interpret for you.
One of the main difficulties in dealing with the repairmen (they usually come in teams, rarely alone) is the language barrier. Miscommunication is common and your explanation of what you want is often met with blank looks, or perhaps even worse, nods of understanding when you are sure they haven't got a clue what you want! Your average tukang will most likely never have seen the interior of a true western style house and therefore has no idea of what a westerner would consider common. An Indonesian tukang is seldom a highly trained tradesman as you would expect to find in an advanced country. Most probably they have never been schooled in their trade or used modern power tools. Their tools are extremely basic and their knowledge is limited to problems that they have been exposed to or their friends have told them about.
Commonly there are two ways of hiring a tukang, a set fee for the entire job (called borongan), or when the client supplies the materials and pays the tukang a daily wage for his labor only. Both of these methods of payment have their drawback. If you agree on a set fee for the total completed job, be careful that the tukang uses materials that you have agreed on. Often tukang will try to profit by using inferior materials to increase his profit margin. This is very important if you are having construction done and the proportion of cement to sand is being compromised! It is also common that the width of iron used in structural building support is switched for a lower grade or smaller iron, which results in a weaker building structure. It should be VERY clear to both parties as to which material you want to use prior to agreeing on a price and you or a trusted mandor (project manager/construction supervisor) should supervise the job.
Unfortunately, the outcome of the other common payment option where the client pays for the material and pays labor on a daily basis lends itself to prolonged jobs. Most tukang do not work at a very fast pace. This becomes even more pronounced if they are getting paid by the day. To an expat the pace of work can be extremely frustration. Before work begins it is suggested that you discuss an estimated time frame with the tukang and suggest that you are not too flexible if the job exceeds the expected time. Tukang may need to be supervised on and off during the job to check that they are not sleeping or having numerous cigarette/coffee/tea/snack/chat breaks. It should be understood that the tukang is responsible for bringing his own tools. If you have the required tools for the job/s and the tukang uses them during the job, make sure that they are returned to you after the job is completed and they don't go home with the tukang.
When calling a repair shop you may find that the person you need to talk to is not there and your calls are not returned, or that they promise to come at a certain time, then after you have stayed home to wait for them they don't show up. Estimates of when a job is likely to be completed are often inaccurate. Sometimes the repairs made are actually only temporary or stopgap measures, and the problem will recur shortly after the guarantee period has ended.
One of the best stories we've heard of this common problem was from an expat on the Expat Forum who had a chronic leak problem in his house. He'd tried several repairmen, but no one seemed to be able to fix it. Along came Fix-it Man number 4 . who solved the problem! The family was so relieved, until a month later when the barrel that had been placed in their attic to catch the leaking water crashed through the ceiling into the house!
Prices for repair services are not fixed and there can be huge differences between companies and quality of work. It is always best to compare prices and negotiate before agreeing on a price and allowing the repairs to begin.
The repair and maintenance processes are often complicated by the fact that homes in Indonesia are undoubtedly constructed differently than homes in your home country. What would never even be considered safe because it isn't "up to code" may be common place methods of construction in Indonesia. Many owners look for short-term solutions to problems in order to save money, which of course are exactly that - short term.
Your Responsibilities under your Lease AgreementIt is very important for an expatriate living in a rented house or apartment to be aware of which maintenance matters are the responsibility of the landlord, and which should be handled by the tenant. Major structural problems, plumbing or well water problems, for example, should be taken care of by the landlord and this should be included in the lease agreement. Smaller maintenance jobs are normally taken care of by the tenant. In many cases, the determination of who is responsible for the repairs is made in the contract by stating the amount of the repair. Cheaper repairs are the responsibility of the tenant, and more expensive repairs are the responsibility of the landlord.
Because of the common practice in Jakarta of paying the rental for at least one year (up to 3 years) in advance, the tenant has little leverage in ensuring the completion of any repairs or improvements agreed to in the lease agreement which are to be carried out after the agreement is signed. Some landlords are very helpful and take good care of their properties, however there are many who are reluctant to invest any more money in the property after they have received their rental payment. Colliers International Executive Housing Management suggests that prospective tenants be very specific about what they want and have the property well inspected before signing a lease agreement. "For a property that has been unoccupied for some time or has undergone large scale renovations, we recommend a full housing audit".
Many tenants opt to hold back a portion of the rental payment until all agreed upon renovations or repairs are done. Or they make the final payment after a specific period of time (for example, one month) after they have moved in so that they can "discover" if there are any additional problems with the house after living in it for several weeks. These provisions, of course, should be written into the lease agreement.
Air ConditioningAir conditioners need to be serviced regularly by a professional maintenance company. This is due to the buildup of dust, dirt and mold within the interior blower and exterior compressor. Failure to have your AC systems serviced regularly can cause the AC unit to not function properly and may endanger your family's health, especially if you have family members with allergies. Ensure that the service includes a complete cleaning of the interior/exterior air filter, blower, and condensation coils. The service should also include a Freon level inspection. The Freon level in most units should be maintained at 70 PSI (Pressure per Square Inch).
The lack of regular AC maintenance can result in poor AC performance, leaking, and further damage to the compressor and other AC components.
More information on Air Conditioners & Air Conditioning in Indonesia
Electrical OutagesDisruption of electrical service in Indonesia is common. This can be caused by tropical storms resulting in broken connections, broken cables or debris falling onto the power lines. Most of the time the reason for the power outage is not obvious and is almost always unannounced. For problems regarding electricity supply the State Electricity Company (Perusahaan Listrik Negara, PLN) has a 24-hour service line where you can report outages anywhere in Jakarta. Call 123 for a tape-recorded message in Bahasa Indonesia and press 1 to leave your message. You may need to have a staff member or Indonesian-speaking friend leave the message for you. If you can ever manage to get a PLN staff member on the phone, they are usually not of much assistance and are unable to tell you how much longer the power outage will be. However, it is still suggested that you call PLN as they may not be aware of the problem and could then send someone to the effected area to investigate the cause.
If the phone reporting method doesn't give you satisfactory answers, you can send your driver or household staff off into the neighborhood to try to determine the source of the problem, if it is local. They can usually come back in a short time knowing the relative scope of the problem and whether or not any PLN staff are on the scene trying to repair the problems.
For more information on Electricity in your home
Information on Swimming Pool Maintenance & Repairs in Indonesia
Telephone Repairs or OutagesTelephone service in Indonesia is not 100% reliable. Bad connections, disconnections and overloaded cables are commonplace. For telephone repairs or complaints call PT Telkom at 117. The operator will give you another phone number to call for the repair office in your area. Once again you may need to have an Indonesian language speaker assist you to place the call.
For more information on Phones in your Home
Gas ServiceMost expatriates use bottled Elpiji (LPG) gas for home cooking, running the dryer and water heater. The tanks can be purchased by your driver or household staff at a depot or shop or delivered to your home.
If you live in an area of Jakarta that has piped gas, to report problems call the State Gas company (Perusahaan Gas Negara, PGN) at Tel. 315-0361 (24 hours). Be prepared to have someone speak Indonesian for you.
For more information on Bottled Gas
City WaterMany expatriate houses have their own deep well, water pump and water tower for water supply. Some homes leased to expatriates have water treatment systems installed. If your potential resident does not have a system installed, talk to your prospective landlord or your company about installing a water purification system. In some areas piped water is available from the Water Company (Perusahaan Air Minum, PAM). Call 573-7023 for repairs or complaints between 8.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. Monday to Friday. The following numbers are also available for services in specific areas:
Central Jakarta 384-5421A staff member or Indonesian speaker would need to make this call for you. These water supplies are for dishwashing, clothes washing, bathing and yard purposes only and are not potable. It is highly recommended that you use bottled water for personal consumption.
For more information on Household Water Treatment Systems
For more information on Bottled Water
Utility Bill Payment
If you are responsible for paying your own utility bills, the procedure is as follows. Bills will usually arrive by mail, however can arrive late. If you do not receive your bill you may call the following numbers to find out the amount of payment due. When calling these numbers, have your account numbers ready.
Electricity bill call 350-1412
When you move in to your new house your landlord should provide you with specific information as to where and when you must pay telephone, electricity and water bills as the payment point differs depending on the location of the house.
Most bills must be paid by the 20th of the month. Late payment can result in a fine or termination of service. Reactivating a service can be difficult and costly. By paying bills early in the month long lines may be avoided. Your driver or trusted household staff can pay the bills for you as long as you feel confident in trusting him/her with large amounts of cash. For electricity and water each house is equipped with a meter and a meter card and employees from PLN and PAM will record information monthly on this card.
You can also arrange to have your bills paid by automatic debt from a local bank account if you have one. This avoids any late payment and trusting household staff with cash. Your monthly statement sent from the bank will include the amounts debited and these can be compared to your bills from the utility companies. If you have a local bank account, it is possible to pay your phone bill online or via ATM in many cases, see BII and BCA services.
Your landlord should provide you with a copy of the last month's paid bill for your reference, and to ensure that the accounts are paid up. You may also choose to check with the appropriate utility offices prior to signing a lease agreement to ensure that the balances on each account are paid. This will protect you from paying for services that you have not utilized. Keep a record of all receipts and payments. These receipts may be turned over to the landlord when you depart.
Executive Housing Management
An alternative to dealing with all of these problems yourself is to use the services of a company to look after all the housing-related headaches on your behalf. Housing Management is a comprehensive and professional service extended to expatriates and corporate clients to manage residential properties that they lease or own, including property management, housing audits, and consulting services.
For clients who lease properties through Colliers International, technicians carry out a pre-lease inspection to ensure that the house or apartment is electrically, mechanically and structurally sound. Any problems discovered are rectified before signing the lease or repairs are negotiated into the lease agreement.
Under the Executive Housing Management preventive maintenance program residential properties are audited to determine the condition of the electrical, plumbing, roofing, structural, mechanical, and safety components. Each home is then scheduled into a quarterly maintenance program that will inspect, service and repair problems at the property. A professional team is available 24 hours a day to answer emergency calls and respond quickly to home repair or maintenance problems.
Services can also include management of payments for household utilities, services, and community dues. Executive Housing Management makes all of the regular monthly payments and the client only needs to deal with one invoice. Optional services including pest control, pool cleaning and gardening services are also available to clients.
Executive Housing Management can take the headaches out of your home maintenance and management needs. These services manage the home for a single family or a portfolio of homes for a company, and deliver quality services, in a timely manner that are cost efficient.
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